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Five ways to win the hearts of professional football scouts

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How to win the hearts of professional Football Scouts
KLOSTERPFORTE, GERMANY - JUNE 27: (L-R) scout Michel Doesburg of Ajax, technical director Marc Overmars of Ajax, scout Henk Veldmate of Ajax during the Training Ajax at the Sportplatz Klosterpforte on June 27, 2018 in Klosterpforte Germany (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

… Football scouts looking for players in Nigeria

It is the dream of every young, aspiring footballer to make it to the top in his or her chosen career and it’s important to know exactly what professional football scouts is looking for.

Almost every established club in the world with good structures usually employ scouts, either on part-time or full time basis to help search for talents that can potentially take over the baton when the older ones leave the stage.

Football scouts attend football matches on the behalf of clubs to collect intelligence. Primarily, there are two types of scouts: player scouts and tactical scouts. Player scouts or physical scouts evaluate the talent of footballers with a view to signing them on a professional contract for their employers.

As such, these scouts go round the globe to fulfil their mandate where they organize football trials to carefully pick the kind of talents they need.

So as young, budding footballer, there are certain traits these scouts search for beyond the raw talents you have.
In as much the raw talents and natural abilities a young footballer has play a huge role, they are not enough to get him or her that platform to develop. It is an open secret that most football scouts hate nothing more than unfulfilled talent.

So what other attributes are these football scouts looking for beyond raw talents and natural ability.

1. TECHNICAL ABILITY

Technical abilities are the skills and knowledge needed to perform specific tasks, in this case, football.
Having these skills doesn’t mean you need to be performing fancy flicks and tricks like Neymar.

Rather, the scouts will assess you on your physical attributes, your dribbling, tackling, shooting, heading, passing and first touch will be assessed in the context of the game.

So, as a young footballer, you will need to demonstrate a good first touch and ease on the ball regardless of your position. If you lose the balls too much, your chances of being picked fades away.

Basically, having all the skills but you don’t know how to use them will not in any way give you that space. It will count for nothing if these skills are not used positively on the field.

Take for example, Cristiano Ronaldo is a talented player but he worked his ass off to get to level he is now. Talent didn’t just take him to the top but using the talents well.

2. TACTICAL ABILITY

This refers to your tactical awareness to read the game well and identify the spaces that can be exploited during the game. We can call this ‘football IQ’ where the scouts will be watching every move you make with and without the ball. A lot of scouts spend more time looking at players without the ball than with it.

A players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi are regarded as one of the most intelligent players because of his abilities to read a game well and orchestrate proceedings on the field of play.

3. PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES

In the modern football, size and appearance are not as important as they used to be but the player must demonstrate an element of strength, balance and poise on and off the ball.

Football is a physical game and it is very important the players have the stamina to complete a game.

Let’s take for example, N’Golo Kante who has a small body but is a work horse. The Chelsea man has so much stamina despite his small frame.

A lot of scouts will simply want to make sure that your physique and other physical attributes don’t put you at a disadvantage.

A player’s ability to take a knock and still stay on your feet while keeping up with the pace of the game is a major plus for the scouts.

4. TEMPERAMENT

Every human being on earth has his/her form of temperament and footballers are not exempted. A players attitude plays a huge role in being signed up by a club.

You might be the most gifted player on the pitch, but if your temperament is letting you down, a scout will be looking elsewhere. It is okay to be nervous during trials, but the football scouts will look out for your confidence as well as your decision making while under pressure or nervous.

Every player can get angry during a competitive match from time to time, but the moment that anger starts to affect your game (and the games of your teammates) is the moment a scout will disregard you.

A scout will be looking for evidence of a balanced temperament that makes the very best of your potential. Most scouts will ask the coach about the temperament of a player off the pitch before pursuing their interest — so work on yours.

5. PACE

This will always be an important trait football scouts will look for in a young player. Having pace is an added advantage over those who are not fast.

Pace will help you get past opposition with ease and help team mates fashion out goal scoring opportunities or even

Scouts are looking for potential. So work hard, listen to your coaches and do your best for the team. If you’re good enough, and you have the right attitude, it shouldn’t be too long before a scout comes calling.

Meanwhile, foreign football scouts in Nigeria are on the search for new talents and you can make yourself available for such opportunities at very short notice. Follow these steps below to improve your chances of getting scouted.

1: Find someone or an agency who can help you get trials.

This is very important as there are several football agencies but you need to do lots of research to be able to choose the best football agencies who will always protect your interests.

​2: Get your talents assessed by competent coaches

Honesty is key in everything we do on earth and as such you must be open to honest and positive criticism from the right quarters. It is important you work on the negatives and improve on the positives

If the experts or coaches say you need to improve your skills and recommend an academy for you, do just that. It is better to take one right step at a time, than to run very fast to nowhere. Decide you wouldn’t waste your time chasing shadows in 2021!

​3: Personal promotion

If you don’t promote yourself, no one will. So the ball is in your court to promote yourself to the world. Thankfully, the social media is a useful tool you can exploit to your advantage. compile video clips of your recent best performances.

However, if you need help on getting video clips of yourself in training sessions, matches etc, drop your comment in the section below and we will take it up from there.

As part of self-promotion, we can organize press conference where top journalists are invited for a media chat and we can get them to write about you in Sports newspapers and online sports magazines and blogs.

4: Register your status as amateur or professional player

This is a follow up of the previous step where you need to get registered with the relevant sports bodies in Nigeria especially with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). If you have not officially registered your status as either an amateur or professional player, we can help you do that with NFF. And you get an official license as a player.

Also, you can get listed on Transfermarkt where clubs and agents can easily see your present status. Also if you need help getting listed on the website, drop your comments. This is a site where people go to find, and discuss, information about soccer players.

6: Get your travel documents ready

Go and obtain your International Passport and get ready to move at the shortest notice.  You need to get your NFF introduction Letter and Player’s license ready. Opportunity can arise anytime and you just need to be ready for such moves. Don’t dull yourself on this.

NPFL: Kano Pillars finally end winless run as Enyimba endure another defeat

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NPFL: Kano Pillars finally end winless run as Enyimba endure another defeat

Kano Pillars have finally earned their first win of the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League after defeating Enyimba 2-0 on Sunday in the matchday 4 encounter.

Kano Pillars who prior to this game were without a single win and were rooted in the 20th position and were desirous to end the losing streak while condemning Enyimba to their second league defeat this season.

Goals from legendary captain, Rabiu Ali in the 45th minute and Kokoete Udo in the 60th minute was all that was needed for the Kano Pillars to secure all three points.

In other games, MFM left Bauchi empty after losing 3-0 to Wikki Tourists while Enugu Rangers thumped visiting Niger Tornadoes 4-0.

Defending champions, Akwa United fell to their first loss of the season following a 2-0 defeat to Nasarawa United while Plateau United secured their second league win with a 3-0 victory over a Heartland.

Table toppers, Remo Stars who are yet to lose a game secured a 1-1 draw away against Dakkada FC while Rivers United and Sunshine Stars shared the spoils of war.

Meanwhile, the Matchday 4 action continues on Monday (tomorrow) when Abia Warriors welcome Kwara United while Gombe United play hosts to Lobi Stars.  The last game will be in Ibadan when Shooting Stars hosts Katsina United.

Regardless of the games to be played today, Remo Stars top the table with 8 points while Rivers United are second also with 8 points. Enugu Rangers are second with 7 points.

MFM FC, Shooting Stars, Gombe United and Sunshine Stars occupy the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th positions respectively.

AFCON: 16 Super Eagles players expected in Abuja

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AFCON: Eguavoen expects full squad today as Eagles depart Jan 5
Super Eagles player during a training session at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja

The interim Super Eagles coach, Austin Eguavoen is full of expectations as he will be welcoming the remaining players in camp tomorrow in preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon.

He made this known during the training session he had with 12 players who are available at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja earlier today.

“We are expecting all the other players in camp tomorrow,” he said.

Players based in the United Kingdom are expected to report to camp on January 3.

The players based in the UK are Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Emmanuel Dennis, William Troost-Ekong, Frank Onyeka, Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo.

Nigeria have been drawn in Group B alongside Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.

The Eagles will commence their campaign against the Pharaohs on January 11 at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua.Four days later, they will face Sudan before squaring up against the Guinea-Bissau on January 19 in Garoua.

Former Nigeria captain Eguavoen, who coached the Eagles to a third-place finish at the 2006 AFCON in Egypt 15 years ago, has selected four goalkeepers, nine defenders, five midfielders and 10 forwards to aim for Nigeria’s fourth AFCON title in Cameroon.

He further said the he will be dropping players who don’t show enough commitment in his final 23-man list.

There is a lot of energy, speed and this what we need in modern football. I will be looking for commitment and the way we want to play has been broken down to them and they have aligned and the next thing is how they will go about during the training sessions,” he said.

He again expressed his disappointment at the absence of Watford in-form striker, Dennis Emmanuel who pulled out because his club refused to release him for the AFCON.

“I am very disappointed as he is in top form and his unavailability right now is painful and there is nothing anybody can do about it. The club refused despite the player and the federation made a lot of effort and that was the reason why we submitted the list late. I spoke with almost every hour but to no avail. He was eager to play for his country,” he said.

In the same vein, the team coordinator, Patrick Pascal said the technical crew will be expecting the other players who will be released by their various clubs today. He also said the team will depart the country on January 5 to Cameroon.

“We all know the situation we are in as some of the clubs will release their players tomorrow (today) and the coach is doing what he can by training with the ones available now. We are leaving on the 5th by the special grace of God,” he said.

The names of players in camp are as follows: Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France), Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus), Henry Onyekuru (Olympiacos, Greece), Peter Olayinka (Slavia Praha, Czech Republic).

Others are Chidozie Awaziem (Alayanspor, Turkey), Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa), Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain), Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), John Noble (Enyimba FC), Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany).

Best thing Lukaku can do is not give interviews’ – Hasselbaink

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Best thing Lukaku can do is not give interviews' - Hasselbaink

Former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has criticised Romelu Lukaku for his controversial interview with Sky Sport Italia, in which the Belgium striker expressed frustration at Thomas Tuchel’s tactics.

“The best thing he can do is not give interviews any more,” Hasselbaink told Sky Sports. “That is just absolutely bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad.

“I like Romelu. I think he is an absolutely magnificent player. When he is playing he gives Chelsea a different dimension.

“You don’t have [what Lukaku brings] at Chelsea or in the world, really – the Number 9s, they are really gone. But what he has said and how he has said it, I don’t understand that.

“It’s four matches, to spit your dummy out after four matches and say that you want to go away and go back to Inter… if you really wanted to stay at Inter then say, ‘I am not going to Chelsea, give me half my wages and I’ll stay’.

“We all know he had to leave Inter because they were in financial trouble, so if you really love Inter, say, ‘Give me half my wages, I want to stay here!'”

Getafe ends Real Madrid’s 11-match unbeaten run

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Getafe ends Real Madrid’s 11-match unbeaten run

Getafe’s Enes Unal’s first-half strike has ended Real Madrid’s unbeaten run, which had stretched to 15 games – and back to the start of October 2021 with Madrid missing the chance to open up an 11-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Enes Unal scored the only goal after just nine minutes when he robbed Eder Militao of possession inside Real Madrid’s penalty area.

Luka Modric went closest to an equaliser, striking the crossbar with a powerful drive.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side have played two games more than closest challengers Sevilla, who face Cadiz on Monday.

Real dominated the first half but only forced one save from Getafe goalkeeper David Soria, who did magnificently to tip Modric’s long-range drive past the far post.

The Croatian midfielder also struck the woodwork with a thunderous left-footed shot from the edge of the Getafe penalty area, while Toni Kroos fired wide from a promising position.

Real increased the pressure in the second half and went close to salvaging a point through Casemiro, but the midfielder’s sweetly struck effort was palmed to safety by Soria.

Prior to this game, Getafe had failed to score in their previous six league meetings with Real, although they did hold them to a goalless draw in April last season.

Their most recent victory in this fixture came back in August 2012. Since then, Real have won 13 of the 15 meetings between the teams.

Madrid still retain a formidable lead at the top of La Liga, despite the defeat, but missed a chance to strengthen their grip on the title.

Marylove, Oparaoji crowned champions of the maiden edition of Abuja Tennis Cup

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Marylove, Oparaoji crowned champions of the maiden edition of Abuja Tennis Cup

Top seed Marylove Edwards was too hot as she won her opponent Mohammed Jummai two straight sets 6-1, 6-2 to emerged champions of the maiden edition of Abuja Tennis Cup.

In the men’s event that took place at the Tennis Center of the Package B of the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja, Oparaoji Uche dismantled Atseye Henry 6-2, 6-2, in a match that lasted for over an hour, to be crowned champions.

Eight male and eight female top Nigerian tennis players took part in the 4-day event that was organized by the Tennis Management Company Limited.

Speaking in an interview during the closing ceremony of the event, Nigerian No1 Marylove believes the victory is a good start for her career in the new year.

“The victory is a good start for me for the year and I believe that many more will come, it is a national event but my dream is to play international tournaments”.

” As the top seed in the country and with the victory, I can play in the Junior Grand Slam and burst into the top 100″.

Also speaking, Chief Organizer of the event Kenneth Izaga said the objectives of the tournament were achieved.

“The first edition is always a learning opportunity. There are a lot of lessons we have learned from it. We are happy that it has come to past as the players had a good time, the next edition would be better”.

Mr. Izaga further expressed satisfaction over the level of participation adding that he is fulfilled that the tournament was held under their belt.

Earlier, president of the Nigeria Tennis Federation Ifedayo Akindoju said his board will continue to partner with private individuals and corporate organizations to promote the development of tennis in the country.

Igoche Mark aims to revive Nigeria’s dead domestic basketball

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Igoche Mark aims to revive Nigeria’s dead domestic basketball

The proprietor of Mark Mentors Basketball Club, Igoche Mark has said his focus is to revive the dead domestic basketball in Nigeria by organizing championships across the nation.

Mark made this known to newsmen on Saturday at the ongoing Sarkin Daji Foundation Basketball Tournament in Doma, Nasarawa state organised by Mo Foundation.

“Let me again categorically state our resolve in the New Face of Basketball is to revive the already dead domestic basketball in Nigeria.

“Our focus is to develop the game that was killed because of maladministration; and I commend Mohammed Shehu for kick starting the revival.” Mark stated.

In his response, the Founder Mo Foundation, Mohammed Shehu thanked Mark Igoche for bringing like minds who are determined to rescue basketball in Nigeria.

“I want to thank Mark Igoche for bringing people with same interest with the sole aim of rescuing basketball. Basketball that has been functional before is now dead, but we are determined to rescue the game.

“Also, we cannot talk about this tournament without Mark who has been part of the basketball progress being witnessed today in Doma land. His Mark D Ball pattern is what I am replicating.” Shehu stated.

Earlier, the Commissioner of Sports, Nasarawa state, Hon.Lucky Isaac Targima said basketball is one of the game the state government is going to focus its attention on, as he asked citizens of the state to support the game.

Meanwhile, The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the Mark D Ball Basketball Championship, has announced that the competition will now begin on January 15.

The championship was billed to begin on January 8, 2022, but a statement by the Secretary of the LOC, Umar Abdullahi, on Thursday, announced a slight change in the commencement date of the Championship.

“This development was taken by the LOC due to requests from some of the participating teams, who pleaded for time.

“Consequently, the Women Championship originally slated to commence on January 8, 2022, will now dunk off on January 15 and end on January 22, while the Men’s Championship will commence on January 22 and run for 3 Months,” the statement read in part.

A total of 24 teams (12 women’s and 12 men’s basketball teams) will be competing for honours in the championship to be held at the Indoor Basketball Hall of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

The tournament is part of stakeholders’ efforts geared towards resurrecting the domestic basketball leagues in 2022.

Stephen Curry breaks own three-pointer record in Golden State Warriors win

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Steph Curry sends Warriors to fifth straight NBA finals
PORTLAND, OREGON - MAY 20: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 119-117 during overtime in game four of the NBA Western Conference Finals to advance to the 2019 NBA Finals at Moda Center on May 20, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775341340 ORIG FILE ID: 1150636498

Stephen Curry broke his own NBA record for consecutive three-pointers as he led the Golden State Warriors to a 123-116 win over the Utah Jazz.

Curry scored a three-pointer for the 158th successive game, breaking his previous record of 157 which had stood since November 2016.

He made 28 points as his side overcame an eight-point deficit to win, having earlier thrown away a 16-point lead.

Rudy Gobert top-scored for the Jazz with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

Elsewhere, DeMar DeRozan scored a game-winning buzzer-beater for the second successive night – making him the first player in NBA history to do so – as his Chicago Bulls edged out the Washington Wizards 120-119.

After receiving the ball with 3.3 seconds left on the clock, DeRozan landed his three-point effort to cap his 28 points – one of four Bulls to reach 20 points with Zach LaVine leading on 35.

Giannis Antetokounmpo made his second triple-double of the season as the Milwaukee Bucks extended their winning streak to six games with a 136-113 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The five-time All-Star finished with 35 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, while James Harden notched his third triple-double in four games in the Brooklyn Nets’ 120-116 defeat by the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Denver Nuggets cruised to a 124-111 win over the Houston Rockets, but the Detroit Pistons needed overtime to beat the San Antonio Spurs – a Saddiq Bey three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining sealing a 117-116 win to end the Pistons’ four-game losing run.

NPFL: Epic showdown as Kano Pillars seek first league win as Enyimba comes visiting

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CAF Confed Cup: Bauchi govt approves Kano Pillars' request to use Tafawa Balewa Stadium

Kano Pillars will today seek to earn their first win in the ongoing 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League season when Enyimba comes visiting today for the matchday 4 encounter.

Pillars have endured a horrendous start to this campaign following 2 losses and a draw so far while Enyimba have been in impressive form despite losing their last match to Rivers United.

The Sai Masu Gida have found themselves in an unfamiliar position on the league table – bottom, with two losses and a draw also failing to score in three games, a situation they will be hoping to overturn when they welcome Enyimba.

Enyimba on the other hand are on a mission to redeem themselves after suffering their first loss of the season in the hands of Rivers United at home with their former coach, Fatai Osho, orchestrating the proceedings for the visitors from the dugout.

Despite their loss, Enyimba currently hold the form advantage against their host having won five of their last six competitive games while Pillars are winless in their last three league games.

The hosts who will be hoping to grab their first points of the season will want to bank on their recent home form against their opponent.

Pillars have won their last two home meetings against Enyimba scoring four times, conceding once.

The last time Enyimba defeated Pillars away from home was in May 2016, winning 2-1, a feat they will be hoping can be repeated.

In Bauchi, MFM will seek to go back to Lagos with all the points when they play against Wikki Tourists while Rivers United will play host to Sunshine Stars in Port Harcourt.

Enugu Rangers will lock horns with Niger Tornadoes at the famed Cathedral while Plateau United welcome Heartland to Jos.

In Uyo, Dakkada FC will do everything to ensure they end Remo Stars’ clean sheets rub and improve their scoring prowess having conceded four (4) goals and have scored just two (2) this season.

Both sides have never met in the NPFL but the last time they met was in a lower league, Nigeria National League (NNL) and that was in 2016 where former players, Victor Mbaoma and Oche Salifu gave the Sky Blue Stars a 2-0 victory at the Otunba Dipo Dina Stadium in Ijebu Ode and the return fixture saw Dakkada defeat Remo Stars by 1-0 in Uyo.

Chelsea, Liverpool cursing their luck – Oliseh

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Oliseh: I will never coach Nigeria again

Former Nigeria coach, Sunday Oliseh, has claimed Chelsea and Liverpool will be cursing their luck in the title race while accusing Arsenal of pressing the self-destruct button against Manchester City on New Year’s Day.

Bukayo Saka opened the scoring for the Gunners but Riyad Mahrez converted a second-half penalty to equalize for City.

Gabriel received a second yellow two minutes later before Rodri grabbed a late winner.

“In as much as we should applaud Man City for resilience & mental strength in winning vs Arsenal, I am disappointed for Arsenal fans as they auto-destructed with a give-away penalty and red card.

“A golden opportunity lost? Chelsea & Liverpool must be cursing their luck right now,” Oliseh tweeted.

AFCON: My club once asked me to fake injury to avoid playing for Nigeria – John Ogu

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AFCON: My club once asked me to fake injury to avoid playing for Nigeria - John Ogu
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02: John Ogu of Nigeria during the International Friendly match between England and Nigeria at Wembley Stadium on June 2, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Nigerian midfielder, John Ogu, has revealed how a club manager in Portugal asked him to lie about getting injured, to avoid representing his country.

Ogu was told to lie but ignored the manager’s hint and honoured the international call-up, which consequently made him lose his regular playing spot.

Ogu is unsurprised by how European clubs are trying to stop players from participating at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and has shared his own experiences of balancing club and country responsibilities in light of Watford’s resistance to release Emmanuel Dennis for this month’s continental showpiece in Cameroon.

Ogu recalled how a Portuguese club told him not to go for international duty with the Super Eagles because they needed his services at the same time.

He was told to lie but ignored the manager’s hint and honoured the international call-up which consequently made him lose his regular playing spot.

As a result, he subsequently missed the 2014 Fifa World Cup with Stephen Keshi’s Eagles in Brazil.

“I’m not even surprised at the situation of the foreign managers or clubs not wanting their players to go represent their country in tournaments,” Ogu tweeted.

“One certain manager in Portugal asked [that] I tell the coach of Eagles then that I was injured so as not to go for a friendly game.

“After I left, went back to the club, he stopped playing me, and this was prior to the World Cup coming that year.

“I made mentioned if it here and many out here said I was lying and so on. Una don see how them be now?”

Ogu, who ultimately missed out on the 2014 tournament, has been without a club in 2020.

“I missed out on that World Cup list,” he continued. “The evil part of it was when the list came out and he found out I wasn’t invited, man walk up to me and asked I call the manager to list me and that if he wants, he can start me in the last game in the league. I was shocked how evil one can be

“Dennis had been named in Nigeria’s squad to contest the upcoming Afcon, but will now remain with Watford for the duration of the campaign.

“The disrespect to Africans and it football tournaments, they don’t rate any of them at all,” Ogu concluded. “We have seen so many tournaments [that] Fifa and Uefa already introduced in world football, but when it comes to Africa and Africans, it’s always a different case.”

Football fans in Nigeria have slammed Dennis on social media for choosing to play for Watford instead of attending the AFCON with Eagles who will be missing key players such as Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu, Leon Balogun and Shehu Abdullahi.

Arsenal played better than us – Guardiola

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Arsenal played better than us - Guardiola

Pep Guardiola believes Arsenal were the better team even though his Manchester City side came away from the Emirates Stadium with a 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola believes Arsenal were the better team even though his Manchester City side came away from the Emirates Stadium with a 2-1 victory on Saturday.

The Gunners backed up their impressive start to the first half by breaking the deadlock just after the half-hour mark, when Bukayo Saka tucked away his left-footed strike from just inside the penalty area.

However, the game turned on its head after the break in dramatic fashion, when Granit Xhaka’s 57th-minute challenge on Bernardo Silva was deemed a penalty by VAR, and the spot-kick subsequently converted by Riyad Mahrez, before Gabriel Magalhaes picked up his second yellow card just two minutes later.

Both sides pushed for the winner but it was City who snatched it at the death, with Rodri scoring in the 93rd-minute to secure all three points for the Citizens, condemning Arsenal to an undeserved defeat in the eyes of Guardiola.

“Congratulations, they were better. Arsenal was better today. But football it’s happened,” the Spaniard said in his post-match interview for BT Sport.
“We faced a team who struggled to be in the top four and started the season at the bottom. Now they are in the top four.

“They had six or seven days since the last game at Norwich. We had two days since Brentford and come back and didn’t have a team. That’s why we put one more player in the middle. To have more control and passes. We know in the transitions with Saka and [Gabriel] Martinelli, the counter-attack with [Alexandre] Lacazette, should be difficult and it was difficult, we didn’t have energy.

“We tried, in the second half, one minute changed with the penalty, one minute the own goal (Aymeric Laporte having his header cleared off the line by Nathan Ake) and the sending off. We try to analyse many things, sometimes the coin falls on your side sometimes the other side.”

Man City kickstarted the New Year with their 11th successive Premier League victory which has now moved them 11 points clear at the top of the table, with their nearest challengers Chelsea and Liverpool to lock horns on Sunday.

NBA: DeMar DeRozan scores buzzer-beating three-pointer as Chicago Bulls beat Indiana Pacers

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NBA: DeMar DeRozan scores buzzer-beating three-pointer as Chicago Bulls beat Indiana Pacers
Dec 31, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) dribbles the ball while Indiana Pacers forward Justin Holiday (8) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan scored a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Chicago Bulls a 108-106 win at the Indiana Pacers.

DeRozan top-scored for the Bulls with 28 points, while Coby White added 24 and Nikola Vucevic made his fourth straight double-double in a game in which the lead changed hands 12 times. Victory extended the Eastern Conference leaders’ winning run to six games.

The Pacers, who had six players missing through Covid-19 protocols, have now lost three in a row.

LeBron James scored 43 points and added 14 rebounds the day after his 37th birthday to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 139-106 demolition of the Portland Trail Blazers.

James reached double figures in points with less than six minutes played, and recorded a double-double inside the first half.

Team-mate Russell Westbrook posted a triple-double – 15 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists – while Ben McLemore led the Trail Blazers with 28 points off the bench.

The Boston Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 123-108, while Trae Young made 35 points and 11 assists as the Atlanta Hawks overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 121-118.

Six Miami Heat players reached double figures as they held off the Houston Rockets 120-110 for a fifth consecutive win, and the Memphis Grizzlies made it four in a row with a 118-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

Donovan Mitchell returned from a two-game absence through injury to score a season-high 39 points as the Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-108.

The Dallas Mavericks beat the Sacramento Kings 112-96, the Toronto Raptors overcame the LA Clippers 116-108 and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the New York Knicks 95-80.

D’Tigress ready for another showdown with sports ministry, NBBF over unpaid allowances, bonuses

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Again, D'Tigress threaten to boycott FIBA World Cup over unpaid allowances

The D’Tigress are set for another round of showdown following the failure of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) to pay allowances and bonuses owed them,

It will be recalled in October last year, the players accused Caretaker Chairman of the NBBF, Musa Ahmadu-Kida, of neglecting the team during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the 2021 Afrobasket – which they won.

The team also accused the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the NBBF of withholding their bonuses and allowances since the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Tenerife, Spain as well as the $100,000 donated to them just before the Olympics, totalling $197,118.

Shortly after that, the Ministry of Sports made attempts to resolve the dispute between the players and former board of Nigeria Basketball Federation led by Ahmadu Musa Kida over bonuses and money donated by corporate organisations in Nigeria ahead of the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo, Japan, the players rejected the proposed part payment of debts owed them, insisting on receiving all their entitlements.

The African champions in a New Year message shared on the social media said the Sports ministry and the Nigeria Basketball Federation are yet to pay them as promised and has threatened not to be a part of the World Cup qualifiers in Serbia if the outstanding allowances and bonuses were not paid to players and officials in full.

“Since the conclusion of the hearing at the beginning of November, no line of communication or responses have been received by D’Tigress from the House, Sports Ministry nor Musa Kida concerning repayment of debts.

“More than 7 weeks have elapsed since the chairman’s decision for the former NBBF president, Musa Kida to settle the players and officials ‘ debt of D’Tigress, while the ministry completes the Olympic training grant balance, yet no engagement.

“We are sending a reminder to all involved including the Sports Ministry, the former NBBF president, Musa Kida, the House of Representatives and FIBA concerning these debts. Adaora Elonu our representative can be a bridge for communication, however, no official communication has been established through her either.

“With the FIBA World Cup qualifiers approaching in Serbia, we stand our ground and will not be scrambled into competition in last minute,” they declared.

Manchester City beat Arsenal to win 11th consecutive league game

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Manchester City beat Arsenal to win 11th consecutive league game

Rodri scored a stoppage-time winner as Manchester City beat 10-man Arsenal in an incident-packed encounter to move 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

That advantage will be cut to some extent on Sunday when second-placed Chelsea host third-placed Liverpool, although no team has failed to win the Premier League title when beginning the new year with a lead as big as City’s.

Arsenal looked to have held out for a draw, but Rodri steered in a loose ball in the 93rd minute to help City claim an 11th successive league win in a game that also had two major VAR incidents and an avoidable red card for Gunners defender Gabriel Magalhaes.

The hosts were the better side early on at Emirates Stadium, and Bukayo Saka swept in a deserved opener to finish off a slick move before the Gunners self-destructed after the break.

Riyad Mahrez levelled from the penalty spot after Bernardo Silva was brought down by Granit Xhaka, referee Stuart Attwell overturning his initial decision after viewing the pitch-side monitor.

Arsenal felt aggrieved at that call after their own shouts for a penalty in the first half were denied following a long VAR check for Ederson’s tackle on Martin Odegaard.

But one minute after conceding from a penalty Gabriel was sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession, the first for trying to scuff up the spot and the second for a foul on Gabriel Jesus.

Arsenal, whose manager Mikel Arteta was forced to watch from home following a positive Covid-19 test, remain fourth in the table.

City have not lost in the league since October and have had to show resilience in their past two games to maintain their impressive winning run.

AFCON: Watford threatened Emmanuel Dennis – Eguavoen

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NFF, Watford bungle Emmanuel Dennis AFCON dreams

Interim Super Eagles coach Austin Eguavoen has claimed that Emmanuel Dennis was dropped because his clubside, Watford threatened him if he featured at the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Interestingly, his club team mate, William Troost-Ekong will be in Cameroon later this month with the Super Eagles team.

Dennis was not released for the tournament by Watford after they received his invitation for the tournament late made way for Peter Olayinka.

“Watford stopped him from featuring at the AFCON,” Eguavoen said after Friday’s training session in Abuja.

“Dennis told me he wanted to come for the tournament but Watford threatened him from coming. I feel bad that some of them like Paul Onuachu, Osimhen and Dennis won’t be there but I feel the 28-man list is good enough to go for the AFCON. I only informed Onyekuru once and he was excited same as Tyronne Ebuehi and Semi Ajayi.”

Meanwhile, Claudio Ranieri insisted Watford had not disrespected the Africa Cup of Nations after Nigeria confirmed talisman Emmanuel Dennis will no longer be travelling to the tournament.

Dennis was ‘excused’ from the squad in a major boost for fourth-bottom Watford who were accused by the Nigeria Football Federation of ‘baring fangs’ ahead of the frontman’s removal from the squad.

Dennis, Watford’s eight-goal top scorer, had been included in Augustine Eguavoen’s 28-man party for the tournament in Cameroon.

However, Ranieri raised doubts about Dennis’s involvement following Watford’s midweek defeat to West Ham by revealing Nigeria may have missed the deadline to inform the Hornets of their intention to select him and that administration error gave Watford a choice whether or not to release him.

Ranieri said, “I knew they were speaking, the Watford board and Nigeria board and I accept every decision they fine and that for me is finished.

“No (we have not disrespected AFCON). We respect everybody. They have a lot of players and they changed the manager then changed everything.

‘We were ready to give the players. They didn’t do this and the two boards spoke and for me it’s ok. I am only the manager, the coach and I accept everything.’

There are also suggestions that a lack of assurance about the role he was due to play at AFCON also played a part in the decision to release Dennis from the squad.

“Of course, he wanted to go to play but also he wanted to help Watford.”

Major sports events Nigeria to participate in 2022

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Major sports events Nigeria to participate in 2022

Nigeria is a sport-loving nation and the citizens are always looking forward to seeing the various national sports teams donning the colours of the nation while hoping the teams will be more successful this year than in 2021 which ended yesterday.

Just as every other previous year, Nigeria has always participated in various sporting events and this year will not be an exception except the current pandemic takes an ugly twist.

Trust Sports highlights some of the major events Nigeria as a country will participate in as the year 2022 begins today.

Africa Cup of Nations

This will be the first major event Nigeria will participate with the Super Eagles representing the country at the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The tournament is scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon and will take place from 9 January to 6 February 2022. Nigeria is grouped with Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Sudan in Group D and will look to win it the fourth time.

African Men’s Handball Championship

The 25th edition of the African Men’s Handball Championship will be held from 13 to 23 January 2022 in Morocco. It acts as the African qualifying tournament for the 2023 World Men’s Handball Championship in Poland and Sweden. The Golden Arrows as the senior national team is called have participated in eleven editions.

Men’s Hockey Africa Cup of Nations

The quadrennial international men’s field hockey championship of Africa is organised by the African Hockey Federation and it will be held alongside the women’s category in Ghana from 17th to 23rd January. Nigeria is grouped in Pool B with Egypt, Ghana and Uganda. The winner will qualify for the 2023 Men’s FIH Hockey World Cup.

Women’s Hockey Africa Cup of Nations

Just as the men are slugging it out on the pitch, the women to will be taking on Ghana, Kenya and Zambia in Pool B while the winner of the tournament qualifies for the 2022 Women’s FIH Hockey World Cup.

Winter Olympics

Nigeria is scheduled to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, from 4 to 20 February 2022 but in only one sport – Cross-country skiing.

African Youth Games

This competition scheduled from 25th February to 6th March in Ethiopia is for athletes under the age of 18 and athletes who performed well in the 6th National Youth Games in Ilorin will represent the country in the tournament.

FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup

As at the time of writing this, Nigeria is yet to qualify for the Mundial but the Super Falconets are on track to qualify for the global football showpiece billed for Costa Rica from August 10–28, 2022. Since the start of the competition in Canada 2002, the Falconets have participated in all editions of the Fifa U20 Women’s World Cup.

Africa Women Cup of Nations

The biennial international football championship organised for the women’s national teams of Africa will be hosted by Morocco from 2 to 23 July 2022. Morocco has qualified for the tournament automatically being the host while other nations will still go through the qualification processes.

The tournament doubles as the African qualifiers for the World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand. The top four teams at the AWCON will qualify for the World Cup. Nigeria is the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, having won a record 11 titles, meaning they have won all but two of the previous tournaments.

FIFA World Cup

This is the biggest football showpiece in the world and the Super Eagles is expected to fly the nation’s flag in faraway Qatar. The three-time AFCON champions are yet to qualify as they will have to navigate through a tricky world cup final clash with a yet-to-be-known opponent. Nigeria will face either Mali, Egypt, Congo DR, Cameroon or Ghana for a place in Qatar 2022.

FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup

Nigeria’s senior women’s basketball team, D’Tigress will be in Syndey, Australia for the 19th edition of FIBA’s premier international tournament for women’s national basketball teams.

They recently emerged champions of Africa after they secured a 70-59 points win over Mali in the final match of the 2021 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket. D’Tigress are only the second team in Africa to win three consecutive titles after Senegal did the same in the 70s.

Commonwealth Games

Commonly known as Birmingham 2022, is an international multi-sport event for members of the Commonwealth that is scheduled to be held in Birmingham, England is expected to take place between 28 July and 8 August 2022 Nigeria has won at least one medal at every Games attended, including a high of thirty-seven in 1994 and has competed at thirteen editions, from 1950 till date. Nigeria did not attend four Games, in 1962, 1978 (in protest at New Zealand’s sporting policies towards South Africa during apartheid), 1986 and 1998 (due to suspension).

New Year’s Day: Club Owners tasks football administrators on developing domestic league

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New Year’s Day: Club Owners tasks football administrators

The Football Club Owners Association of Nigeria (Club Owners) have enjoined Football stakeholders in Nigeria to show greater commitments in order to take the League to the next level in 2022.

In a New year message from the Association jointly signed by the Chairman Chief (Barr) Isaac Danladi and the Executive Secretary Chief Alloy Chukwuemeka, Club Owners said the sacrifices made during the covid-19 health and economic challenges could be transformed into positive impact on the League if all hands are on deck to show more commitment to service delivery. 

It said that the several efforts being made by the stakeholders to reshape the system should be doubled in 2022 to achieve greater heights in Football development in Nigeria. 

” Our actions and inputs should be seen to have greater positive impacts on the growth and development of the Domestic Football in Nigeria”,  the statement read in part.

Club owners salute all the football stakeholders in Nigeria and wish them a prosperous New Year 2022 in good health and multiple blessings. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool preview: Title rivals battle in London

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Chelsea vs Liverpool preview: Title rivals battle in London

On Sunday, title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool prepare for battle in the capital in the English Premier League.

A frustrated Thomas Tuchel bemoaned his side’s growing absentee list after Brighton took a point home from Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

Romelu Lukaku returned to the starting lineup with a bang as he headed in the opening goal after 28 minutes, but last-minute hero Danny Welbeck restored parity for the Seagulls in second-half injury time as Chelsea once again came up short at home.

The Blues have now fallen eight points behind runaway leaders Manchester City in the rankings, and even though the season has only just reached its midway point, Tuchel claimed that it would be “stupid” to think his depleted side are capable of competing for top-flight glory.

VAR comments aside as well, four of Chelsea’s last five Premier League encounters at Stamford Bridge have now ended 1-1, and failing to keep a single home clean sheet in that run represents quite the downturn from Chelsea’s formerly steadfast defence under Tuchel.

Despite the Blues boss’ comments, it would be folly to write Chelsea out of the title race ahead of the New Year, and they were certainly done a favour by Leicester before the confidence-sapped Reds make the journey South.

Defeat at the King Power marked only Liverpool’s second loss in the 2021-22 season across all competitions, and the third-placed Reds now find themselves nine points adrift of Man City having played a game fewer, and fourth-placed Arsenal are suddenly just six points behind.

Of course, Jurgen Klopp’s crop will leapfrog the Blues back into the top two with victory in the capital, but they have failed to beat three London sides in Brentford, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur away from home so far this season.

Neither Chelsea nor Liverpool tend to kick off the New Year on a high note either, but recent history is in the Reds’ favour, as they have only lost two of their last 11 Premier League games against the Blues at Stamford Bridge.

NFF, Watford bungle Emmanuel Dennis 2021 AFCON dreams

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NFF, Watford bungle Emmanuel Dennis AFCON dreams

English Premier League side, Watford have dashed the hopes of Emmanuel Dennis to represent Nigeria in the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) accusing the club of “baring fangs”.

The striker has scored or created 13 of Watford’s 22 league goals this season and was included in Augustine Eguavoen’s 28-man squad for the tournament in Cameroon, which starts on January 9.

Upon his invitation to the team, Dennis had expressed his delight after he was named in Nigeria’s 28- man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) billed to hold in Cameroon this month.

The Watford striker took to his Twitter account to share his joy at be­ing part of the Super Eagles travelling party to Cameroon which was later dashed by parties involved.

“Proud to get a call up to represent my country,” he posted on his Twitter account on Monday.

Dennis has three caps for Nigeria, but the last of his three appearances came over a year ago in a goalless draw against Sierra Leone.

Claudio Ranieri, the Watford head coach, suggested that Nigeria may have missed the deadline to inform them of their intention to select him and that provided a loophole as to whether they released him for international duty.

After talks between Watford and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Dennis was left out of their squad for the tournament.

In a chat with The Athletic on Tuesday, Ranieri said the invitation email for the player arrived later than the timeframe stipulated by Watford.

He added that since the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) missed the deadline, the decision to release the player is left solely to the discretion of Watford.

“I’m not so sure I’ll miss Dennis now, and if he goes to the national team, we have to wait,” the former Leicester boss said then.

“The email didn’t arrive at the right moment. The national team has a time to send a pre-call. They didn’t respect the days, and I want to see.

“The email arrived late. They have a time when they need to send a pre-call; if they don’t send it, we can choose.”

When contacted last week, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, said the federation was working on the release of the player which eventually failed to materialize.

However, Watford’s latest decision on Dennis seems to violate FIFA regulation which states that “clubs are obliged to release their registered players to the representative teams of the country for which the player is eligible to play on the basis of his nationality if they are called up by the association concerned. Any agreement between a player and a club to the contrary is prohibited.”

Later on Friday, Eguavoen said the exclusion was due to what he branded as threats by Watford aimed at Dennis.

“He said he tried his best and I know he tried his best, We tried to reach out to the club, but they insisted they would not allow him to go and Dennis also told me that the club are doing everything possible for him not to be at the AFCON.

“That is why we had to wait until the last second to push the button. Dennis said he wanted to come, but his club were threatening him, so what do we do? If a player doesn’t want to come, we have to play with what we have,” Eguavoen told NFF TV.

Interestingly, while Dennis had to pull out, his compatriot in the same club, William Troost-Ekong is still in the Super Eagles squad for the competition.

Meanwhile, Nigerian fans have taken to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction after Watford star Emmanuel Dennis pulled out of the upcoming African Cup of Nations.

The news of his withdrawal has not gone down well with Nigerian fans, with many taking to Twitter to express their displeasure.

AFCON: Covid, injuries, Watford politics rule out Dennis, Osimhen, Abdullahi, Balogun

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Covid, injuries, Watford politics rule out Dennis, Osimhen, Abdullahi, Balogun to miss AFCON

The Super Eagles team will miss the services of Leon Balogun, Victor Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis and Shehu Abdullahi as they have been excluded from Nigeria’s final 28-man list for the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) starting in Cameroon next weekend.

Osimhen tested positive to the coronavirus pandemic a couple of days ago while versatile Shehu Abdullahi picked up an injury and has made way for hard-as-nails right back Tyrone Ebuehi, now with Venezia in the Italian Serie A.

England –based Oluwasemilogo Ajayi returns to the group for Africa’s flagship football championship following injury to centre-back Leon Balogun.

Osimhen’s absence paves way for Greece-based Henry Onyekuru who was also at the last finals in Egypt. In-form rapid raider Emmanuel Dennis, whose English Premiership club is baring fangs, has been excused to provide room for Czech Republic –based forward Peter Olayinka.

The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations finals will end on 6th February.  

SUPER EAGLES’ SQUAD FOR 33RD AFCON CAMEROON 2021

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Tyrone Ebuehi (Venezia FC, Italy); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa)

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Galsgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Kelechi Nwakali (SD Huesca, Spain)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Olympiacos FC, Greece); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain); Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Praha, Czech Republic).

Meanwhile, six players have so far hit the Super Eagles camp in Abuja. More players are still expected on Friday.

AFCON Update: Eleven players hit Super Eagles Abuja camp

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AFCON: Super Eagles hit Abuja camp today
Super Eagles players during a recent training period

Eleven Super Eagles players at the time of writing this have arrived at the camp at the Bolton White apartments in preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon.

The names of players in camp are as follows:

Moses Simon(FC Nantes, France), Francis Uzoho(AC Omonia, Cyprus), Henry Onyekuru(Olympiacos, Greece), Peter Olayinka(Slavia Praha, Czech Republic).

Others are Chidozie Awaziem(Alayanspor, Turkey), Chidera Ejuke(CSKA Moscow, Russia), Daniel Akpeyi(Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa), Sadiq Umar(UD Almeria, Spain), Olisa Ndah(Orlando Pirates, South Africa), John Noble(Enyimba FC), Taiwo Awoniyi(Union Berlin, Germany).

The camp opened on Wednesday in Abuja with no fewer than 20 players expected in camp for the start of preparation for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations tournament nut only six have arrived so far.

The 33rd edition of the AFCON will hold in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, 2022.

Players based in the United Kingdom are expected to report to camp on January 3.

The players based in the UK are Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Emmanuel Dennis, William Troost-Ekong, Frank Onyeka, Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo.

The team will depart for Garoua, Cameroon on January 6, six days before their opening group game against seven-time champions Egypt.

Major events that made, marred Nigerian sports in 2021

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Major events that made, marred Nigerian sports in 2021

At the start of the year, despite the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of hopes hinged on the return of sports as Nigerians yearned for normalcy to be returned in their social, economic and private lives.

The first major sporting event expected to somewhat kickstart the economy to an extent was the National Sports Festival which suffered several postponements till it finally held in April. Then the Olympic Games which Nigeria participated in put Nigeria in a negative light.

Trust Sports takes a cursory look at those events that either marred or made sports in Nigeria in the year 2021.

Edo govt threatened to shut down sports festival

Hardly had the 20th National Sports Festival begun that the host, Edo State government threatened fire and brimstone to shut down the festival following the refusal of the state government to support the state with funds.

It will be noted that the ‘Nigerian Olympics’ originally scheduled to hold in March 2020, finally held in April 2021, with Delta State retaining the title it has held since 2012.

The deputy governor, Philp Shuaibu who was the chairman of the local organizing committee took out the threat and ordered the closure of offices belonging to the LOC and main organising committee (MOC).

The threat was not lifted until the federal government intervened with President Muhammadu Buhari pledging to make available the sum of N500 million to the Edo state government.

AFN leadership tussle

After the Tokyo Olympics was concluded, it was time for a new leadership to be elected to head Nigeria’s biggest sports federation, the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and end the protracted leadership tussle.

That failed to happen as on June 14, two presidents at different venues were elected to oversee the federation’s activities.

Tony Okowa was elected AFN president at the 2021 elective congress held at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

In a parallel election held in Kebbi state, Ibrahim Shehu-Gusau was also elected as the federation’s president.

World Athletics has since confirmed that it only recognises the Okowa-led board and has established communication with the administration.

Team Nigeria Olympics campaign

Judging on the previous performances of Team Nigeria in past editions, little was expected from the contingent in Tokyo. As the Olympics got underway, the Nigerian camp was hit with some scandals which dragged the name of the country in the mud worldwide.

The first one happened few days to the commencement of the Games and set the ugly tone for what to come when D’Tigers kits for the Games were being held by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

The seized merchandise was shipped into the country by Peak, the teams’ kits sponsor with whom the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) has a four-year contract, but NCS withheld it at the Apapa seaport in Lagos.

The kits were not released until July 16 — a few days till D’Tigers were billed to play their first game in Tokyo.

With the dust fully to settle down, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) disqualified 10 Nigerian track and field athletes for failing to comply with the out-of-competition testing (OCT) requirement.

AIU said Nigeria is among countries deemed to have the highest doping risk, and the athletes were expected to undergo “at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than three weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event”.

The 10 disqualified athletes fell short of the required number of tests and were thereby disqualified. The affected athletes — Knowledge Omovoh, Ruth Usoro, Favor Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Glory Patrick, Yinka Ajayi, Tima Godbless, Chidi Okezie, Chioma Onyekwere and Annette Echikunwoke — later took to the streets of Tokyo to protest the disqualification caused by the incompetence of Nigerian authorities.

As Nigerians were battling with the ugly scenario coming in from Tokyo, it was reported again that when officials of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) refused to give the disqualified athletes the Samsung phones due to them. The Samsung S20+ 5G was a souvenir for all athletes that took part in the Olympics.

Officials of the NOC were said to have collected the phones for Team Nigeria but refused to distribute them to some of the athletes. The phones were later given to the affected athletes after the alarm was raised and an outcry ensued.

On the eve of the final shot-put event at the Tokyo Olympics, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi posted a video on Instagram.

In the short footage that would later go viral, he was seen washing his jersey ahead of the shot-put final that was just a few hours away. “When you qualify for Olympic Finals, but you have only one jersey,” he captioned the post.

This video was a fallout of power tussle between a factional board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and the sports ministry who failed to allow Nigerian athletes to wear the Puma-branded apparel at Tokyo Olympics, arguing that it’s “a subject of a criminal investigation”.

D’Tigress protest unpaid allowances

After winning their third consecutive Afrobasket championship, D’Tigress released a video on the social media accusing the Nigeria Basketball Federation and Sports ministry of not paying them their allowances and bonuses while threatening to boycott call-ups to represent Nigeria for the 2022 World Cup qualification series if their demands were not met.

Their efforts however paid off as they have since been paid their outstanding allowances and are expected to represent Nigeria at the 2022 World Cup qualification.

Banyana Banyana stun Super Falcons in Lagos

The South African women national team shocked the Super Falcons in front of the home crowd in Lagos at the inaugural Aisha Buhari Cup in September, recording a 4-2 victory over the nine-time African champions.

Super Eagles upset by CAR, unpaid allowances

Central African Republic (CAR) did the unthinkable in Lagos when they stunned the three-time African champions in their World Cup qualifier. The 1-0 loss at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos was Nigeria’s first-ever defeat to the CAR.

Also, ahead of the double-headed friendly encounter against Cameroon in June, several players excused to be away from the game, claiming to be injured. It was said the players were owed several months of allowances and this was confirmed by the Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick.

Efe Ajagba, Israel Adesanya first career losses

Delta state-born Efe Ajagba was handed his first professional boxing career defeat in October as an undercard in the heavyweight title trilogy showdown between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.

In his bid to become the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold two titles concurrently, Israel Adesanya lost by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45) — marking his first career defeat. The loss brought his professional MMA career record to 20-1.

 Creation of Para Sports Department in the Sports Ministry

The creation of the Para Sports department in the Sports Ministry was a major achievement in the outgoing year.

According to the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, this move will give para-sports equal opportunities to thrive.

The creation was done in collaboration with the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF). This new department will be solely responsible for both the National Sports Festival and Para Sports.

Given the pedigree of Nigeria’s para-athletes globally, the successes and honour they have brought the country, this should be celebrated and the Sports Ministry given a pat on the back for making it happen.

Pinnick’s FIFA Council seat

The President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, got elected as a World Soccer Governing Body (FIFA) Council member in March 2021. The victory also ensures he keeps his place in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Committee.

The following gives Nigeria a strong voice in the comity of football powerhouses, not only in Africa but also globally.

It did not come as a surprise, therefore, that the FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his CAF counterpart Dr Patrice Motsepe were guests of President Muhammadu Buhari during the inaugural edition of the Aisha Buhari Cup, an invitational tournament to help with the development of women football in Africa.

World Athletics U-20 Championships in Kenya

Nigeria’s U-20 athletes put up a remarkable and historic feat at the World Athletics U-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. Team Nigeria finished in third place behind hosts Kenya and Finland at the end of the competition attended by 166 countries.

Team Nigeria won four gold and three bronze medals to earn the country her best-ever finish in the history of the championships.

Before now, Nigeria’s best placing was seventh at the 1990 edition in Plovdiv, Bulgaria where she won two gold, two silver, and two bronze medals.

The feat of the U-20 athletes caught the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, who described it as the dawn of greatness for the Nigerian youth in sports.

National Youth Games

The National Youth Games (NYG) is a key programme of the Grassroots department in the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.

As was the case with the National Sports Festival, the Covid-19 pandemic cast huge doubts on the competition. There were pressures from many quarters that the Games be put on hold or cancelled altogether. But the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, stuck to his guns because of the opportunities it would afford the young talents that abound in the country. Dare’s insistence paid off and the National Youth Games was held in Ilorin, Kwara State.

The highlight of the Games is a certain Akinwowon Oladeji, a deaf boy from Lagos State, who won the 100m, 200m and 400m events.

Exploits in Table Tennis

2021 was a year of massive exploits for Nigeria in Table Tennis, both in administration and in the ping pong hall. For the first time in history, one country, which is Nigeria, produced four persons elected into the boards and commissions of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) at their congress held in Houston, Texas in November.

Barrister Wahid Enitan Oshodi got elected as Executive Vice President and then got elevated to Deputy President status because he got the highest number of votes among the vice presidents. CP Anderson Bankole got elected into the Para Table Tennis Commission (PTTC).

Engineer Ishaku Tikon, the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) President, got elected into the Veterans’ Commission while Chief Banji Oladapo got elected into the Board of Directors.

In the ping pong hall, Aruna Quadri became the highest-ranked African player in history when he was ranked 13th in the World in November. He would however finish the year in 14th place.

Quadri also became the first African ever to play up to the quarter-finals of the ITTF World Championships in Houston, Texas and the World Table Tennis Finals in Singapore in November.

Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja

After close to a decade of neglect, the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja got back to life in early December.

The Sports Minister’s ‘Adopt a Pitch’ initiative yielded this positive, heartwarming result through a Public-Private Partnership arrangement with Dangote Industries Group. The partnership led to the rehabilitation of the playing pitch, installation of two digital scoreboards as well as the cultivation of a nursery for the maintenance of the pitch for the next two years. Already, the process of getting FIFA and CAF certification for the pitch is ongoing.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has now made the stadium its first option for the Super Eagles ahead of the 2022 World Cup playoffs in March 2022.

The Sports Minister has also promised that the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos and some other neglected sports edifices will be rehabilitated for the use of the nation’s athletes in 2022.

D’Tigress conquer Africa again

Nigeria’s national women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, conquered Africa for the third time in a row at the Afrobasketball Championships in Cameroon. The queens of the courts were so dominant at the championship where they took all their opponents to the cleaners.

The ladies would then be at the centre of agitations and demands for the payment of some of their outstanding allowances, owed since 2018.

The call for calm, patience and understanding, as well as the assurances by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development that all their requests are receiving attention and the payment of the ‘Adopt a Team’ allowances to the players, has helped a great deal in calming frayed nerves.

Bilateral agreements with Turkey, South Africa, quadripartite Cooperation with Egypt, Algeria and Ghana

Some of the most Innovative programmes of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development are the international cooperation and collaborations she forged with like-minded allies in 2021.

The governments of Turkey and South Africa signed development and exchange programmes for youth and sports with Nigeria when the heads of their governments made state visits to Nigeria. These programmes include exchange of ideas and technical support in the areas of sports development.

Also the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development signed a quadripartite arrangement with Egypt, Algeria and Ghana along the same path.

In what was tagged the ‘Abuja Initiative’ during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) in Abuja, the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, initiated an agreement with the sports ministers of Egypt, Algeria and Ghana, which will hasten the development of sports across Africa.

N88B boost for sports development

One of the major landmark achievements for sports in Nigeria in 2021 is the Federal Executive Council’s N88 billion boost for sports development through the National Development Plan (NDP) for the next four years (2021-2025).

Under the former arrangement in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), sports got zero budget. However, following the reclassification of sports as a business by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2020, there would be an injection of the N88 billion into its development. Consequently, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development will now be on the steering committee of the National Development Plan (NDP).

The Sports Minister is also initiating a National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) that would have components of a business model in line with global best practices. All these are geared towards creating a conducive environment for sports to thrive in Nigeria.

The expectations are that the new year 2022 will present more possibilities and successes for Nigerian sports both home and abroad.

NPFL: Katsina Utd pile more miseries on ‘winless’ Kano Pillars

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NPFL: Katsina Utd pile more miseries on ‘winless’ Kano Pillars
File photo: Katsina United clash with Kano Pillars during a recent NPFL game

It is going from bad to worse as former champions, Kano Pillars are yet to record a win in the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League season following a 1-0 loss away to Katsina United in the Match Day 3 encounter at the Umaru Dikko Stadium, Katsina yesterday.

The Mai Sugida had kicked off their campaign losing 3-0 to defending champions, Akwa United before securing a barren draw against Lobi Stars last weekend.

Katsina United’s Abba Umar third minute goal was enough to pile more miseries on the visiting side who are rooted at the bottom of the table with just a point. The hosts moved up the ladder to 15th position with three points.

In Minna, Niger Tornadoes and Abia Warriors shared the spoils of war as the game ended 1-1 at the Bako Kontagora Stadium.

Martins Ursule had put the hosts in the driving seat in the 34th minute but Yakub Hammed got the all-important equalizer in the 53rd minute.

With this result, Tornadoes moved to 9th position with 4 points while Warriors also moved to 7th position with 4 points

At the conclusion of this round, Remo Stars top the table with 7 points but are ahead of Akwa United and Rivers United who are also on the same points due to a better goal difference of +5.  

Lookman not eligible to play for Nigeria – NFF

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Lookman not eligible to play for Nigeria – NFF
Ademola Lookman reeling away after scoring a goal for Leicester City against Liverpool in a recent premier league clash

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has clarified that Leicester City’s Ademola Lookman has not been cleared by the world football governing body, FIFA to represent Nigeria.

According to a statement posted on the NFF’s Facebook page, the process to have him switch his allegiance to Nigeria is still ongoing.

Former Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr had listed him in his initial 40-man provisional squad list for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations but was left out of Nigeria’s final 28-man squad released by Austin Eguavoen last week.

“Nigeria Football Federation has stated categorically that Ademola Lookman of Leicester City FC OF England has not yet been cleared by World Football body, FIFA to represent Nigeria at International level. The process for his switch is ongoing.

“It is therefore incorrect for any medium to claim that interim Head Coach Austin Eguqvoen is the one who axed the player from Nigeria’s final list of 28 for the Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021.

“However, his name was included in the initial provisional list with the believe that the process would have been completed before the commencement of Afcon,” the statement said.

Lookman was born in England to Nigerian parents and has played for U19, U20 and U21 England teams.

He had previously turned down Nigeria again in early 2018 after meeting with the president of the Nigeria Football Federation after England senior manager Gareth Southgate convinced him that he was part of his plans

NPFL: Rivers United halt Enyimba’s winning streak

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NPFL: Rivers United halt Enyimba’s winning streak

Rivers United have ended Enyimba’s winning streak with a hard fought 1-0 victory at the Enyimba International stadium in the match day 3 of the Nigeria Professional Football League season on Wednesday.

The People’s Elephant had secured five wins in five games in all competitions this season under manager, Finidi George before this clash but that streak ended in the 51st minute with the only goal of the game coming from Rafiu Kayode Isahq.

In the same vein, defending champions, Akwa United have made it three wins from three games after defeating visiting Gombe United in Uyo while Lobi Stars condemned Shooting Stars to a 2-1 loss in Makurdi.

In Akure, the search for the first win of the season continues for Sunshine Stars as they played out a barren draw with Enugu Rangers while Kwara United ensured Wikki Tourists left Ilorin empty handed after securing a slim 1-0 victory.

Plateau United have now recorded their second league loss following a 1-0 loss to MFM in Lagos while Heartland secured their first league victory after defeating visiting Dakkada FC 1-0 in Owerri.

Remo Stars were unable to make it three wins after they were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Nasarawa United.

Meanwhile, action continues on Thursday (tomorrow)when Katsina United welcome Kano Pillars while Abia Warriors will be guests to Niger Tornadoes.

Currently, Remo Stars top the table with 7 points closely followed by Akwa United and Rivers United on the same points.


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